March 10: The promise of abundance
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 32 (NRSV)
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I felt the heaviness of the room envelop me as I walked through the glass double doors, the security guard locking them behind me. It was 4 p.m. and I was the last person allowed into the local Social Security office. The waiting room was still full; two long, silent rows of people; faces etched with anxiety, fear and sadness; gloom wrapping them about like a shroud. This was the recession personified.
Almost immediately, my name was called and I moved forward to claim the appointment I had made three weeks before. A woman, perhaps in her mid-fifties, greeted me, then pulled up my “case” on her computer screen. She turned to me expectantly. With anxiety tripping up my words, I began to describe why we couldn’t possibly owe $36,000 of (alleged) overpaid disability benefits from years before.
She listened carefully, jotted a few notes, then pulled up more data on her screen. I waited, not knowing, trying to intuit what would come next.
I was astonished by what did come next. In the space of a few minutes and without an ounce of judgment, she replaced my anxiety with peace of mind. She understood why I was anxious, she said, but the next part of the process was hers to worry about. It was her job, in these next weeks, to figure out what happened and why; then she would work with me to decide how to address it. She promised to work with me until the end of the process. “It will be okay,” she said simply. “You don’t need to worry.”
I stared at her, almost undone by her compassion. Feeling an immense sense of relief, I asked her, “How can you be like this, working with sad and difficult stories every day, all day long?”
Her eyes brightened and she leaned toward me as if sharing a secret. “I love my work,” she said, with passion. “At the end of every day I go home and know that I made a difference for at least one person that day. What could be better?”
I was deeply moved; the power of her spirit transformed mine. If the people in the outer room embodied the distress of the recession, the woman in this cubical embodied the promise of abundance.
“Besides,” she then added, with a grin, “They don’t pay me nearly enough to be mean and grumpy.”
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 32 (NRSV)
Of David. A Maskil.
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’,
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let all who are faithful
offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
shall not reach them.
You are a hiding-place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you.
Many are the torments of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.